Friday, November 02, 2012

Weary but willing

Bonds—and James Bond—are tested in “Skyfall,” easily an emotionally engaging new chapter in the series starring Daniel Craig as the toughened super-spy 007. Following the somewhat unmemorable “Quantum of Solace,” the latest Bond film introduces interesting changes to the mythology.

This third Craig-starrer wastes no time in reminding viewers that his 007 is a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails iteration. In the first few minutes, Bond pursues his armed target across the labyrinthine streets of Istanbul and engages him in fisticuffs atop a speeding train. The targeted mercenary has information on a missing drive that contains names of undercover NATO agents, operatives in various delicate missions across the globe.

Accidentally shot by an ally, Eve (Naomie Harris), and later presumed dead, Bond eventually recovers and uses his “death” to his advantage, only reluctantly returning to duty after a mysterious mastermind publicly exposes a few of the agents from the compromised list.

“Skyfall” interestingly develops the existing relationship between M (Judi Dench) and Bond, as her order to Eve led to his regrettable wounding and untimely hiatus. The friction between the two recurs through the years, and is especially felt during this complicated set of missions.

A similarly lively dynamic is shared between Bond and characters helping expand the agent’s world. The new gadgeteer Q is a young genius played by Ben Whishaw, who emits a favorable “Doctor Who”-esque vibe. Gareth Mallory of the Intelligence and Security Committee is authoritative and diplomatic, an undoubtedly promising role for Ralph Fiennes.

As “Skyfall’s” charismatic villain, the ex-agent Rodriguez (a shockingly blond Javier Bardem) has a beguiling backstory, but his revenge scheme is needlessly elaborate and too perfect. His incredulously well-timed, well-planned maneuvers make him too contrived. His verbal jousts with Bond, however, are among the film’s lighter, more fun moments.

Craig remains impeccable as the understandably worn-out and weary Bond. While “Skyfall’s” climactic action sequences are rather simple and predictable, Craig is unwaveringly good, and this more serious version of James Bond has grown—and continues to grow on the viewer—tremendously. 

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